A Looming Joblessness Crisis for New Pharmacy Graduates and the Implications It Holds for the Academy

Daniel L. Brown, PharmD

Disclosures

Am J Pharm Educ. 2013;77(5) 

In This Article

Introduction

The new millennium ushered in a period of hope and change for the profession of pharmacy. The doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree became the exclusive first professional degree as of 2000, bringing with it expectations for a dramatic expansion of direct patient care roles for pharmacists. Just 1 year later the pharmacy academy began a period of unprecedented growth, fueled by a long-standing shortage of pharmacists and an outstanding job market for new pharmacy graduates, making jobs for PharmD graduates easy to find and causing salaries to spiral upward. As a result, the PharmD degree became a hot commodity, generating a seemingly inexhaustible supply of applicants to colleges and schools of pharmacy. Inevitably, higher education came to see pharmacy as a "golden goose."

But no goose harbors an infinite supply of golden eggs, and the inordinate rate of academic growth that ensued has put the academy at risk, along with its students. Calls for measured academic growth, brought forth in published commentaries in 2005 and 2010, went largely unnoticed.[1,2] The house of student delegates of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists even weighed in on the subject in 2012 by approving resolution 2012:2 — Creation, Expansion, or Reductions of Schools and Colleges of Pharmacy Relative to Pharmacist Demand, which called upon current and future schools to evaluate the demand for pharmacists before taking action.[3] Remarkably, most leaders of pharmacy organizations and academic institutions remained relatively silent on the matter.

This commentary examines the massive increase in the number of pharmacy graduates since 2001 and the vast overestimations, in the author's opinion, made back in 2001 about the number of pharmacists that would be needed by 2020. It also identifies potential implications of the changing pharmacist job market for the pharmacy academy.

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